Cardinal Leon-Joseph Suenens served as a Belgian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church from 1904 to 1996. Before his promotion to cardinalate in 1962, Leon served as an Archibishop of Mechelen-Brussel from 1961 to 1979. He was a powerful leader in the Second Vatican Council who advocated aggiornamento in catholic churches. Pope John selected Cardinal Leon-Joseph due to his commitment in the renewal of the church. He was a strong man who once saved the church from organizational chaos hence, gaining popularity among Vatican councils. Throughout his service in the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Leon had many influences towards the council in terms of preparing them for the Christ, and other useful businesses within the catholic churches. In addition, Leon wrote many books that gave people their responsibilities in the Catholic Church.
How Cardinal Leon-Joseph influenced the council
If one could ask Pope Paul VI who was the most influential and dedicated Cardinal in the Second Vatican Council, the answer would be definitely Cardinal Suenens. Despite the fact that church leaders knew Suenens as a highly tempered person, he performed his duties with a lot of humor and jokes and sometimes people were suspicious of the outcome. Leon influenced two main documents of the Second Vatican Council. The first document was the Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution of the church), and the second was the Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in Modern World). Even his successor, Cardinal Godfried knew Leon as an influence council who could read the mind of an individual and predict his or her next action. As such, Godfried nicknamed Cardinal Leon a weather forecaster because he could easily tell where the Church was headed. The funny thing about Cardinal Leon was that he could not allow his decision to go unimplemented even if it means changing things to act in his favor (Donnelly, 2012).
When Cardinal Leon-Joseph was selected among the four moderators of the Council, he took his duties seriously and committed himself to implementing its functions. The French press conducted an interview in 1969 aimed at determining Leon’s competence to work as a council moderator. In his statement, Leon criticized the Roman doctrines terming them as old versioned plans. In addition, he criticized the loyalty of Romans in keeping love among Catholic Church. In addition, Leon influenced all other council members to take their responsibilities and serve the church with loyalty and courage. Moreover, Cardinal Leon was a faithful person who trusted the will of God irrespective of the situation. Despite the fact that he was a dedicated man of God, he could fight his fellow members who refused to follow the commands given (Donnelly, 2012).
Through out his service in the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Leon-Joseph dedicated his activities in helping the broken hearts, forgotten people, and abandoned Christians back to the Christ. He was one of the most respected council by the Pope, John Paul XXIII in the Second Vatican Council. In addition, many people called upon him while faced with life challenges and he could easily solve their problems. Leon had an advantage because he studied Theology and Psychology in University enabling him handle most problems occurring in the Catholic Church. On several instances, Pope could leave the whole palace under the watch of Leon because he had faith in him. As a leader, Leon took the responsibility of influencing the council positively in various ways to ensure his messages reached every Christian worldwide. Some of the most common methods used by Leon in influencing the council included writing books, preaching from the scriptures, and holding training programs about Pentecost (Suenens, 1975).
Cardinal Leon was a tough man, but his actions were of great benefit to the Vatican Council. In 1962, a letter written by Leon to the Belgium attracted Pope John XXIII, and it gained Leon’s popularity among Second Vatican Council. John was a God fearing man but could not stand unwanted behaviors of some people, which made him point out every evil doing in the society. Leon’s background and experience in the Catholic teachings compared to most cardinals in the Second Vatican Councils. He studied theology in the University of Freiburg that gave him more knowledge and competence in handling other people’s matters. In addition, he studies philosophy after his ordination to the priesthood that also increased his knowledge to understand others. Someone might think of Cardinal Leon as a rare person who could not be easily approached by anybody, but this is wrong. He was a free man who shared with everyone irrespective of their nature. His humbleness made many people respect him and chose him to head their operations. Leon’s personal traits gave him an opportunity to become the leader of Second Vatican Council heading two of the most difficult texts (Keenan & Kotva, 1999).
On the other hand, Leon’s immediate contact with Pope John XXIII gained him a lot of popularity and gave him many chances of leading others. He was selected the secretary to the Second Vatican Council because he was known for his humbleness and welcoming nature. It was very funny for a whole University graduate to stand on the waiting desk welcoming visitors to the council, but Leon loved his work and did it with passion. However, some of the council members disliked his character and proposed his removal from the information desk. No intimidations prevented Cardinal Leon from performing his duties as a Vatican Council advisor. His forceful and anonymous leadership skills placed him at the center of all councils. Cardinal Leon did not look like a person who could influence a crowd because of his loyalty to people. In 1963, Pope Paul VI appointed him the moderator of the council together with three other cardinals to chair various sessions in St. Peters. Although his relationship with the three others seemed perfect, Leon behaved in the unofficial manner among the four members, but Pope John Paul (O’Malley, 2010) recommended his productivity.
Cardinal Leon-Joseph played a role in preaching Good News to the Vatican churches. In his book, “The World for Which the Lord Did Not Pray” influenced many leaders in one way or the other. When the debate about the constitution Gaudium et Specs emerged in the Second Vatican Council, several bishops reacted against it. It was agreed later that several phrases be rephrased in order to bring out the real image of the world. Later, it was realized that those people who reacted against the constitution wanted to increase the forces of evil in the society. Cardinal Leon played a great role in bringing Christians back to the Christ through various advises and encouraging words from the scripture. There was a very critical character about Leon because he cooperated with other Bishops in removing parts of the constitution but went ahead to urge people not to concentrate more on the rephrased areas. The following action influenced other council in working with Cardinal Leon in preaching Good News to Vatican Catholics (Donnelly, 2012).
Cardinal Leon also played a significant role in encouraging legality and morality in the Second Vatican council. Leon was a professional psychologist and could easily read minds of other council. His books encouraged people to follow Catholic laws and orders even though; he was too slack in implementing his teachings. Leon brought out the difference between the good and the evil by teaching people about good morals in the law of morality. In addition, his book encouraged people to see how many human laws are subjected to fluctuating public opinions. Leon called upon Christians to make heavy sacrifices in order to gain favor from God. This was a critical issue because the current Catholic teachings do not allow people to make animal or crop sacrifices as it was in the days of Noah (Witte & Alexander, 2007). Being a senior council in the Catholic Church did not prevent him from delivering people using all means as long as they accepted the gospel.
In order to dedicate his actions towards Christ, Cardinal Leon-Joseph started a Center for Theology and Ministry Catholic in Chicago. Leon called upon his fellow councils to join him in becoming a living sign of God’s love presence in the world. In addition, he helped lonely hearts, abused people, and abandoned Christians who have lost the way of the cross. Moreover, Cardinal Leon uses the same vision as that of the Second Vatican Council that called for church renewal and a church that replicates the compassion of Jesus. The center has introduced many public programs that teach people on the functions of Second Vatican Council. Leon’s commitment in starting a Christian teaching center shows his desire to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Christians and his devotion in the work of god. The main issue about the Theological Center are complaints on the high fee charged to complete one session (Stolitz, 2012).
Joseph’s Center for Theology teaches learners many Catholic Church doctrines essential for future bishops and cardinals. Firstly, the school offers a scholarship program that assists in preparing students for the leadership life in Jesus ministry. Cardinal Leon’s texts are the most used in teaching the above program because they have a better history of the Catholic Church since 18th century. Secondly, the school offers studies to students from different denominations like Catholic-Muslim studies. These studies offer opportunities and encourage interreligious dialogs among Christians, Muslims, and Jewish communities. The only critique on this issue is that Cardinal Leon was a Catholic but allows other denominations to study in his college. Thirdly, the courses taught in the center aimed at preparing students for priesthood calling for high school teachers to incorporate some of the lessons in their classes. No one can truly deny Cardinal Leon was a dedicated man of God ready to influence other leaders and council members. Although Leon planned many things for his own benefit, they ended up changing lifes of many Christians.
Cardinal Leon-Joseph took part in preparing the council
John was the most influential cardinal in the Second Vatican Council. He took an important role in the process of relating the ancient church laws to the modern teachings. Pope John XXIII called upon all Second Vatican Council cardinals to debate on the best approach to take in order to link the olden church constitution to the modern world. Leon-Joseph took the new responsibilities in undertaking pastoral programs to teach church council on the modern world laws. Most leaders in the Catholic Church undertook the Church’s new vision as taught by Cardinal Leon and its role in the modern world. In order to make his teachings more elaborate, Cardinal Leon produced a book entitled “A Controversial Phenomenon, Resting in Spirit”. This book called upon all Catholic Christians who had the knowledge of the old Church constitution to devote their time and resources in bringing these teachings to the modern world generation. Leon asserted that the description of the older scripture phenomenon is a historic and mystical perspective that has been overtaken by events. However, Leon encouraged people to borrow some of the doctrines from the ancient Church constitution.
Secondly, Cardinal Leon-Joseph could question the actions of Pope John even if he was his senior. In 1962, Leon complained to Pope John XXIII on the number of agendas for discussion on the forthcoming council meeting. Leon complained on the large number of issues that were brought forth for discussion and cautioned Pope against signing for all seventy-two cases. Since Pope John had confidence in Cardinal Leon, he asked him to prepare another list and plan to represent all other council members. Because Leon was a sharp and proficient person, he designed a plan that demanded all council members to attend a true pastoral course to prepare them for the modern world constitution. Cardinal Leon took advantage of the offer and included pastoral themes that favored him without caring much about his colleagues. In addition, he kept the documents confidential and could only share it with anyone willing to second him on his plans (Stoltz, 2012).
Cardinal Leon-Joseph also prepared the Second Vatican Council on issues entailing risk taking in life. Leon claimed that people should not fail in recognizing signs of God. He was a man led by words from the scripture and always told his fellows that the devil is on keen watch when the Holy Spirit is at work. The Cardinal was on the forefront in urging people to renew their lives and give them to Christ because He is the only one capable of saving them from risks in life. In addition, Leon talked about seizing an opportunity. The devil has many plans to destroy the work of God and can take away an opportunity from someone. Leon condemned church leaders who were unaware of evil activities carried in their churches. For instance, he spoke of a local bishop in a certain diocese where evil activities dominated the whole diocese because people feared talking about them. Cardinal Leon-Joseph condemned the Bishop although, as a senior council, he had a duty of telling him the truth instead of commenting about it in his book.
Aftermath of the council
Cardinal Leon-Joseph left the council with most people supporting the work of Christ. In addition, Cardinal Suenens centers continue with his church work by fostering academic researches, case studies, and other publications aimed at influencing more Church leaders to be loyalty to Christ. The focus on Cardinal on renewal of the constitution of the church could be described as the aftermath of his loyalty to Christ. Renewal has been termed as a phenomenon whereby people who have backslidden turn their hearts towards Christ for prayer and healing. Some of the terms associated with renewal continue to be used today. They include: Resting in Spirit; Overpowering of the Spirit; The Blessing; and Slain in Spirit. People who continued using these terms showed their dedication towards Cardinal Suenen’s teachings linked to a certain phenomenon of the Holy Spirit.
In addition, some of the council members ignored Suenen’s warning and kept along with their unfaithful actions because they never took Suenen’s words seriously. Such people would fall down or experience a harsh power of God as seen in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the New Testament provides a different line of action taken by God. The two testaments (New and Old) have brought along a lot of confusion about teachings of the scripture. Modern catholic churches are called upon to avoid confusions introduced by the New Testament in the interpretation of the supernatural falling phenomenon. Some of the doctrines practiced by Suenen during the reign of Pope Paul VI have are now extinct. Moreover, certain phrases used in those days have different meanings in the New Testament however; people should understand the presence of two different levels of experience.
Another critique found in the modern churches after the death of Suenen concers whether the term resting in spirit is a form of prayer. Cardinal Suenen described the meaning of Falling in Spirit in his book “A controversial Phenomenon”. According to Suenen (1975), several factors trigger people to fall in spirit. These include people well know to the public who are specialists in certain fields, people who pray for others and have no previous experience but convince people about the presence of God, and false prophets who pray and preach for others to get money in return. The aftermath of the council viewed the aspect of falling ion spirit with a different perspective. The New Testament calls for Christians to trust in God and avoid others who claim to be prophets sent by God. The modern version of resting in spirit is ‘resting in soul’. People who dedicate their lives to Christ today experience a different feature of the Holy Spirit. In addition, whereas those days’ people believed Seunen could speak directly to God on their behalf, the council today believes in following the Christ (Witte & Alexander, 2007).
The following critique shows that Cardinal Leon-Joseph Suenen influenced two main documents of the Second Vatican Council. The first Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution of the church), and Gaudium et Spes (the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in Modern World). Even his successor, Cardinal Godfried knew Leon as an influence who could read the mind of an individual and predict his or her next action. In addition, Suenen prepared council for the church today by introducing the modern world church constitution that was according to the New Testament teachings. Moreover, Cardinal Suenens opened several centers that continue with his church work by fostering academic researches, case studies, and other publications aimed at influencing more Church leaders to be loyalty to Christ
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